‘Eyes to the skies’: Snowbirds return to Comox for spring training

'Eyes to the skies': Snowbirds return to Comox for spring training
Photo: PAF Photography
Snowbirds file photo.

It’s ready, set, jet in the Comox Valley as the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, an air demonstration squadron dubbed “a Canadian icon,” return to local skies.

The Snowbirds are back on the Island to practice before taking off to various locations across Canada and the U.S. for their 2024 air show, which commences May 18 at 19 Wing Comox and concludes in Reno, Nevada, in October.

This year, they’re visiting 18 locations, with the only other stop in B.C. being Abbotsford from Aug. 9-11.

The complete schedule is below:

The Snowbirds, or 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, were all smiles in photos posted to the group’s Facebook page Monday when they announced they were en route to the Island, which is their usual stomping grounds this time of year.

People flock to watch them practice.

“Eyes to the sky Comox Valley! We will be transiting from 15 Wing, Moose Jaw to our spring training base of 19 Wing, Comox (Monday)! We will be transiting with fuel stops in Calgary and Kelowna!” the Snowbirds said in the post.

According to 19 Wing Totem Times, a local publication, the Snowbirds have practice flights scheduled daily around 9 a.m., 2:30 p.m., and 6 p.m. leading up to the start of their tour.

A popular spot to watch them practice is Air Force Beach, but it’s noted that people must buy a pass from the campground office to park there.

“Snowbirds are here to practice, not to do shows,” the Times wrote to Facebook Tuesday. “Practice times may change without notice due to weather, operational commitments, maintenance, etc, etc.”

A soaring milestone

On May 18, 19 Wing Comox will host an event from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., during which people can attend the Snowbirds’ 2024 tour kick-off and view displays for free.

“Aerial performers include the CF Snowbirds, the CF-18 Demo Team, our own CH-149 Cormorant and CP-140 Aurora, as well as the CC-130 Hercules performing a Search and Rescue para-drop,” said 19 Wing in a news release.

It’ll be a big celebration, as the Royal Canadian Air Force marks 100 years this year.

“The Royal Canadian Air Force has a long and distinguished history with many proud traditions that merit recognition by all Canadians,” said Colonel JP Gagnon, 19 Wing commander.

“Generations have served with distinction over the past century, and we look forward to honouring that history and celebrating our exciting future with the return of the Comox Air Show,” he added.

“The heart of the RCAF has always been its people, and we are thrilled to introduce our people and showcase what they do to the local community.”

The Government of Canada says the Snowbirds “are a Canadian icon” comprised of Canadian Armed Forces members and National Defence Public Service employees who “work as a team to bring thrilling performances to the Canadian public.”

It says they “demonstrate (a) high level of skill, professionalism, teamwork, discipline and dedication,” and has more information about them online here.

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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